RIYADH: At least 47 Pakistani pilgrims were in injured in Makkah’s Grand Mosque accident which caused at least 107 pilgrims to lose their lives, Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalillulah confirmed on Saturday.
A massive construction crane crashed into Makkah’s Grand Mosque in stormy weather Friday, killing at least 107 people and injuring 238, Saudi authorities said, less than a fortnight before the hajj pilgrimage starts.
Crane Accident in Makkah Kills 107 Hajj Pilgrims
The civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a “crane fell at the Grand Mosque.”
That came about an hour after it tweeted that Makkah was “witnessing medium to heavy rains,” with some pictures circulating on social media showing lightning.
The towering crane toppled forward, smashing through a block on the eastern side of the mosque where the long corridor for Saffa-Marwa are located.
Director General of Civil Defense team later said that strong winds had caused the crane to topple over.
As many as 50 rescue workers were working with around 80 ambulances standing by.
Pictures of the incident on Twitter showed bloodied bodies strewn across a courtyard where the top part of the crane, which appeared to have bent or snapped, had crashed into the several storey-high building.
A video on YouTube showed people screaming and scurrying around right after a massive crash was heard and as fog engulfed the city.
The incident occurred as hundreds of thousands of Muslims gather from all over the world for the annual hajj pilgrimage expected to begin on September 21.
The Grand Mosque is usually at its most crowded on Fridays.
The governor of Makkah region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, has ordered an investigation into the incident and was heading to the mosque, the official @makkahregion page on Twitter said.
He added in a subsequent tweet that despite the tragedy, this year’s hajj will go on as per schedule, directing officials concerned to “rearrange” and “restore” the site of the crash. He further said that the Saudi government will provide facilities to the injured to complete their religious obligations.
Meanwhile, online activists created a hashtag on Twitter urging Makkah residents to donate blood at hospitals in the area.
No details were immediately available on the nationalities of the victims.
But Iran’s official IRNA news agency, quoting the head of the Hajj Organisation, said that 15 Iranian pilgrims were among those injured.
Most of them were treated as outpatients, Saeid Ohadi said.
A massive project is currently underway to expand the area of the mosque by 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet), allowing it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once.
The mosque is surrounded by a number of cranes.
The hajj has largely been incident-free during the past few years, with Saudi Arabia investing billions of dollars in transport and other infrastructure to facilitate the movement of the huge numbers of people who take part.
The official SPA news agency said in a statement that by Friday, almost 800,000 pilgrims had arrived into the kingdom for hajj.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has extended all possible help to the kingdom, directing its ambassador in Riyadh to visit patients in hospitals.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also expressed his deep condolences over the unfortunate incident, Radio Pakistan reported.
Nearly 100,000 Pakistanis are in Saudi Arabia to perform hajj.
Religious affairs ministry emergency cell
The Ministry for Religious Affairs, which oversees hajj arrangements, has formed an emergency cell which people can contact to get information about their relatives.
People can call the cell in Lahore at: 042-111725425, or they can call the liaison in Saudi Arabia on: 8001166622.
News source: Tribune